Fort Worth council votes to pay higher bill for donated art

05/06/2014 8:37 PM

05/06/2014 8:39 PM

Mayor Betsy Price and several Fort Worth City Council members Tuesday rebuked the leader of an area public art program for failing to communicate with council about the costs of a donated public art piece that have more than doubled.

In October 2012, the council approved spending $60,000 to move, store and install the bright yellow, 13-foot-diameter metal sculpture valued at $150,000.

But that price has increased to $137,448 because of increased installation, transportation and storage costs, said Martha Peters, vice president of the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

“This has been a contentious issue at best and there are major concerns, but we really have talked this one almost to death,” Price told Peters Tuesday.

The city has already authorized spending $102,531 on the project, and voted 7-2 Tuesday to authorize $34,917 more. Council members Gyna Bivens and Jungus Jordan voting no.

“Turning back on it will only waste time, effort and money that has already been spent. We are not satisfied with the process, but it is time to move forward,” Price said.

Councilman Jungus Jordan asked to delay voting on the increased costs at the April 22 council meeting, asking instead for a detailed explanation of why costs have increased.

“Our credibility of the public art program is at stake if we are not better stewards of the dollars that we are given,” Jordan told Peters during Tuesday’s pre-council meeting.

“This is not the first time we have piecemealed a piece of public art,” Jordan added, bringing up the lights on Lancaster Avenue, which rose from its original $1 million cost to $1.7 million.

Peters told council members that a basement and a utility line under the Municipal Court Plaza, where the piece is to be installed, have upped the installation costs. The artwork also needs to be repainted, since it was damaged in the process of being disassembled for delivery.

“In retrospect we could have done a better job of communicating with council and we will do so moving forward,” Peters said. “We hope this will not detract from the positive outcome we are hoping to obtain with this project.”

Peters detailed the costs Tuesday, which includes $44,663 for transit, storage and installation; $41,624 for site preparation, footing and lighting; $8,628 for inspection; $36,700 for paint renovation; and $5,831 for transportation to the renovation site.

The Tabachin Ribbon, by internationally recognized Mexican artist Yvonne Domenge, is one of six sculptures commissioned for temporary exhibition at Chicago’s Millennium Park in 2010 and then donated to cities across the country.

Council members were still upset after Peters’ presentation.

Jordan said the costs should have been vetted much more thoroughly, saying for example, that the the basement under the plaza “didn’t just suddenly appear” and any complications with installation because of the basement should have been accurately calculated upfront.

Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim“ Zimmerman and Councilman Dennis Shingleton were also frustrated.

“This whole thing just kind of gives us this feeling that you are not forthright with us in what you are doing, you are not coming to us like you should” Zimmerman told Peters. “This is a black mark on your office that this is happening this way.”

Peters left the meeting visibly upset, receiving a brief hug from Councilman Sal Espino.

“I know it’s not about public art, it is about stewardship, but let’s bring closure to this. And Martha, you have my full support,” Espino said during the meeting, saying that Peters and her staff are normally good communicators.

City Manager Tom Higgins said in the meeting that he takes responsibility for the mistakes.

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